New South Student Center may use SAFE funding

October 6, 2011

At a forum on the proposed New South Student Center on Monday, architects from SmithGroup, Georgetown University Student Association senators, and University administrators revealed updated designs for the project and indicated that students would still have more opportunities to provide input on the final design of the center.

Significant additions and suggestions to the center may result in dipping into the Student Activities Fee Endowment or increasing fundraising for the project.
Based on the parameters presented at the forum, the approximate cost of the program is $15.5 million, partially financed by the University’s soon-to-be-launched fourth Capital Campaign, which is designed to bring in approximately $200 million for infrastructure projects like the NSSC. The goal is to open the space by August 2014.

However, Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson stressed that this date is “not a commitment,” but rather “a date that seems reasonable.”
GUSA senators said the possibility of spending part of the $3.4 million endowment from student funds in addition to University fundraising is being explored as well. If the project does receive student finances, the amount will probably range from one million to two million dollars, though more dialogue between students and the University will be necessary to determine to what extent endowment usage is worthwhile, they said.

In the case of endowment spending, the referendum language would specify which add-ons the student endowment is tied on to, but it would by no means substitute University fundraising.

Potential add-ons to current design, like an outdoor patio space, a courtyard, a convenience store, fireplaces, or a skylight would mean increasing the price tag of the project to the $17 million range, with approximately $2 million from the endowment. Endowment spending could be arranged to speed up the fundraising process as well.

“If the fundraising campaign is lagging behind so it could delay the project by a year or two, it would be a question of using some percentage of it to help the university,” GUSA Vice-President Greg Laverriere (COL ’12) said.

Laverriere added that taking students’ input on the design of the center will be a prime concern when deliberating over potential utilization of student finances.
In addition to possible increases in funding, Bill Ash, an architect from SmithGroup, noted that there will be more opportunities for student input once the design phase of the project officially begins.

Once the administration reaches a general consensus on the rough sketches of the project, there will be more emphasis on student forums to tackle the general ambience of the NSSC—for instance, whether it will resemble the glass-and-steel modern look of Hariri or be based on dark wood like older University buildings.
Currently, the scope of the program includes a food-service venue in a “club-like” setting, a multi-purpose room, a new Riverside Lounge with breakout rooms and open study space, and an area dedicated to recreation and gaming.

The NSSC could also mean more performance space for musicians and performance artists on campus. The multi-purpose room, with a standing capacity of 400 people, could potentially be equipped with portable stages and other movable furniture for performances or events.

Other functions of the room include pool tournaments, lectures, banquets, and a variety of other events.

The idea of the center housing a pub similar to the one proposed in Healy Hall seems to be dead, but Olson said the project could include a space where alcohol could be served occasionally.

“There is serious interest in exploring a venue that serves alcohol, to an extent that alcohol service will not become a single overarching goal of the space,” Olson said.
There is still open discussion about how many hours per week the venue would serve alcohol and how it would be run, he said, but the main concern is to prevent the venue from being primarily used as a student stop for alcohol.

Olson emphasized that the center will be targeted to undergraduate students, most of whom will not be of legal age to consume alcohol.

Based on the current plan, most of student organizations’ offices and workspaces will reside in the Leavey Center, which will undergo renovation after the NSSC construction is completed. Still, the current template is very much still up for changes, and only serves as a general outline for the project.

“There will be more discourse to incorporate students’ vision of the NSSC,” GUSA Senator Tyler Sax (COL ’13), who has been facilitating interactions between student and the administrators as part of GUSA, said. “Our goal is to ensure that students have an appropriate and an important voice in the designs and inputs, and that’s regardless of whether student money goes into it or not.”

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    We’ve taught the administration a valuable lesson: if they filibuster and frustrate student initiative (i.e. Healy Pub), then they get to use our money for their own pet projects.

    The student activities fee was created in 2001 to give students financial independence from the University. Now it’s just another piggy bank for meddling bureaucrats to dip their paws into.

    Not that anyone expected any of the GUSA senators to have the spine to stand up to administrators…